Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Programming

I wasn't sure what to do for the letter 'P', but seeing that I'm at Crestron's Rockleigh New Jersey office for basic programming training.

For the uninitiated, Crestron is one of the major manufacturers of audiovisual control, switching, and distribution systems. In fact, their product line has become so broad that they are able to build an entire demonstration room in their "Crestron Experience" showroom using a rack populated with nothing but Crestron equipment, from control processors, to amplifiers, video processors, and even lighting controls. They created some impressive and slick showcases for what their projects can do, including a Theo Kalomirakis-designed "home theater". The audio and video quality are suitably impressive, as is the completeness and flexibility of the control system.

There seem to be two philosophies to control system programming; there's the "configuration" type of setup favored by Extron which provides a simple set of icon- and menu-driven configuration tools to create instruction sets. The advantages of configured systems is that they're easy to set-up and require less specialization. The disadvantage is that they lack flexibility and sometimes create less efficient code than the lower-level method - writing code in a proprietary programming language.

Today's adventure involved System Builder - Crestron's simple configuration tool. Our instructor emphasized how powerful System Builder can be in the hands of someone with knowledge of how it works and a bit of creativity in use of global variables, conditionals, and other tools. Each student was assigned a neat little workstation with a Middle Atlantic console rack loaded with two processors (a Pro2 and MC3), a digital graphics engine, a lightbulb, and various dimmer switches, button consoles, and touch-panels. This let us experiment with simple tasks, such as linking a pair of RF dimmer switches, building touchpanel interfaces and an executable "X-Panel" to run on a PC or tablet.

I'm not walking away convinced that SystemBuilder is a replacement for the more flexible but harder to use Simpl Windows, but there appears to be room for both. It's interesting that Extron, with their emphasis on simple, configurable processors, is now releasing "Global Configurator Pro" which is much more complex and requires training prior to use while AMX, which was always one of the hardest to program, has just announced "Rapid Project Maker" - their answer to the configuration tools available for other systems.

There was even a chance for a sneak peak at the new CP3 control processor - not much more than a glance at the chassis, but we were told that, like the MC3, it will be capable of running multiple projects simultaneously. The long process of phasing out the venerable 2 series processors seems to be beginning in earnest, with a Pro3 expected sometime down the road.

That's it for P. See you tomorrow, when I try to think up something for the letter Q.

No comments:

Post a Comment